‘The fundamental idea in autonomy’, suggests Young (1986: p.19), ‘is that of authoring one’s own world without being subject to the will of others.’ Drawn from philosophical debates concerning the notions of autonomy, liberty and free will, this notion of ‘authoring one’s own world’ seems to have particular significance when related to language learning. How, as language educators, can we help students to become authors of their own worlds? In pursuing this challenging notion, I shall look first of all at the general notion of autonomy in philosophy and political science before discussing some of the limitations of the concept of autonomy as it is commonly understood in language education. My principal concerns are that in moving into the mainstream of applied linguistic thinking, autonomy has become a psychologized, technologized and universalized concept. Following a critical discussion of mainstream autonomy, I shall discuss autonomy in language education from a rather different perspective, emphasizing the importance of looking at language learning in terms of ‘voice’ and the struggle for ‘cultural alternatives’.